River Offerings

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Today while walking along Red Willow River and listening to the rush of wild waters racing over rounded stone, I felt suddenly compelled to make the river an offering. This felt a bit strange because just last night I had celebrated the full moon and the rising river water by writing and reenacting a simple ritual as I do each month as part of my own practice.

 

Returning to the house I removed the two small branches of blooming peach blossoms from an old bottle and returned to the river’s edge to complete my task.

 

When I cast the flowers into the churning grey green water it felt just right. In that next instant I had an insight: Whenever I locate myself in a mythological context the powers of the ancient goddesses and gods live through me. Something was coming through.

 

I hadn’t been thinking about anything, certainly nothing mythological, but I do have a strong academic background in this discipline, so immediately I wondered who it was I might be relating to. Vaguely, I recalled the rising Egyptian Nile…

 

When I looked up the Egyptian river goddess I discovered that her name was Anuket, which means “to embrace.” These two words described perfectly the satisfying experience I was living as I witnessed the water rise over the once expansive beach.

 

When the Nile flooded in the spring the Festival of Anuket began. Anuket was believed to be a goddess who nourished the fields with her rising waters in preparation for spring planting. She also protected both the river and its source. During this ceremony people made offerings – precious gold and other gifts – to the river out of gratitude for the life bringing water.

 

The taboo against eating certain fish was also lifted at this time suggesting that Anuket had a fish form that was also eaten as part of the spring festival. She was also linked to the great cobra, a goddess/god associated with water and Hathor, Great Goddess of the Moon.

 

It is intriguing to note that in Egyptian mythology religious beliefs were not predicated on theological principles. The focus was always on the relationship between the people and their many deities all of which represented some aspect of Nature, and the intersection between the two.

 

I was struck by the confluence of so many diverse religious beliefs. Here in Northern New Mexico Avanyu is the Spirit of the Waters and Pueblos peoples have a dance that is done in his honor during the spring months. His petroglyphs and pictographs line our canyon walls. Today is also Easter Sunday in Christian traditions, and oddly it is also April Fool’s Day!

 

“Let us be chroniclers of loss.” One woman’s words also soared through my mind like the red tail hawk that sliced the air in two as he flew overhead (Horus?) as I remembered that in Abiquiu, the rising of the river is no longer a natural occurrence but is instead a result of opening of the dam. Nature has become a “resource” to be used by humans and then discarded. I next experienced a moment of searing grief as the present overshadowed the past.

 

Still, it is my earnest hope that the River Goddess and Avanyu will both be pleased by my humble offering of pale peach blossoms because I too honor the spirit of the rising waters as I participate in both ancient and extant traditions by allowing myself to become a receiver by opening to what is.

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